Day 15

God’s Judgment of Israel’s Rebellion

from the reading plan

Numbers 14:1-45, Psalm 106:24-27, Ezekiel 20:10-20, Hebrews 3:15-19

In the wilderness narrative, Israel is presented as obstinate and ungrateful. No matter how many times God showed up to deliver and provide, Israel continued to mumble and complain. In Numbers 14, their continued rebellion came to head—God told Moses that He would end the nation of Israel and raise up a people stronger and greater than those He brought out of Egypt. At first, this judgment sounds harsh. But according to the terms of their covenant…God was within His right.

It’s here I must concede an uncomfortable truth about God’s judgment. If God were to judge us and hold us accountable for our sin, He would be within His right. If we look out at the world, at the trail of destruction from human sin and brokenness left in its wake, then we would end up short if a holy God called us to account for all of that.

Yet despite being worthy of judgment, God’s justice is rooted in His goodness, His loving-kindness, and His steadfast love. And It’s here, then, in Moses’s response that we get a picture of Christ—a righteous intercessor—appealing on behalf of a stubborn people:

So now, may my Lord’s power be magnified just as you have spoken: The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generation. Please pardon the iniquity of this people, in keeping with the greatness of your faithful love, just as you have forgiven them from Egypt until now.
—Numbers 14:17–19

While we are deserving of God’s judgment, we are also gracious recipients of His divine mercy. Like Moses, Christ stands before the Father as our righteous intercessor. It’s in Jesus we see the Father’s justice and mercy in action. Christ is judged on our behalf, and in Him justice is satisfied and mercy is made available.

This is the justice of God: Christ on the cross bearing the sins of the world, the Great High Priest praying for us, the mercy of God made flesh for the redemption of the world.

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